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South Florida Flavor

FloridaflavorThe opening day of the Stanley Cup playoffs sure had a South Florida feel, no?

It seemed like every where you looked Wednesday there was some link to the Florida Panthers. And, no, I'm not talking about Ed Belfour's guest appearance on Reno 911!

First, some started off the day with a tall glass of Florida orange juice and a copy of USA Today. Who was that on the cover of their playoff preview section? Why it's Gary Roberts and Todd Bertuzzi in their new unis.

The first game of the night -- major league props to Versus by the way -- featured Roberts and his new mates from Pittsburgh as they took on Ottawa (and Senators coach and former Florida bossman Bryan Murray).

Later, former Panther franchise goalie Roberto Luongo made his postseason debut as Vancouver played host to Dallas.

And who was that calling the game? Only Panthers play-by-play guy Dave Strader and former franchise goalie John Vanbiesbrouck. Those in Canada may have gotten to hear former GM Mike Keenan's take on the postseason, although I wouldn't know because I couldn't get the TSN feed.

Keenan_2 Beezer


Yes, the Panthers were all over the place as the playoffs kicked off.

While Florida hasn't been to the postseason since 2000, a bunch of players who played with the organization recently are in the thick of the fight. A total of 11 players who have played with the Panthers in the past two seasons are on playoff teams this season.

Those players are: Bertuzzi (Detroit-trade), Niklas Hagman (Dallas-trade), Sean Hill (Islanders-bought out of contract), Kristian Huselius (Calgary-waived/trade), Ric Jackman (Anaheim-waived/trade), Joel Kwiatkowski (Pittsburgh-trade), Lukas Krajicek (Vancouver-trade), Luongo (Vancouver-trade), Jamie McLennan (Calgary-UFA), Roberts (Pittsburgh-trade) and Jon Sim (Atlanta-UFA).

-- PS: A few former Panthers are up for some league hardware, including Luongo (Hart/MVP and Vezina/top goalie) and Huselius (Lady Chandler Byng).Chandler

-- Great game in Nashville, no? Heck of a comeback by the Preds, heck of a win for the Sharks. I think it's going to be tough for Nash to come back from this one. SJ gave it away and then stole one on Music Row. Huge.

-- Again, great job all around by Versus. Very solid schedule for the first round of the playoffs, good announcing teams, great studio crew. Solid. I've been very critical of Versus and their spot on the dial (and in the conscience of sports fans in the good ol' U.S. of A.), but they do a great job in the postseason. Now, their game selection in the regular season leaves a lot to be desired, but their coverage in the second season stands up to anyone. So far, so good.